Minnesota corn farmers may soon be sending an ethanol plant the by-products of their crop -- while the grain goes elsewhere for food or livestock feed.
MPR reports a first-of-its-kind ethanol plant in Emmetsburg, Iowa, has begun hiring and plans to open early next year. Poet-DSM Advanced Biofuels plans to make ethanol from corn waste -- cobs, husks, and leaves -- but not the kernels. A company official tells MPR construction is underway in Emmetsburg, managers are being hired, and a number of Minnesota farmers are expected to send material to the plant.
NBC reported early this month on the race in the alternative fuel industry to begin making cellulosic ethanol on a commercial scale. One renewable energy researcher told the network companies are anxious to make a biofuel that does not compete with the demand for food and feed.
Bloomberg reported earlier this year that making ethanol from crop waste costs about 40 percent more than making it from corn. But surveys of companies in the industry suggest the cost difference will disappear in about three years, according to Bloomberg. One analyst expects cellulosic ethanol will begin to make "meaningful inroads into the vehicle fuel market" late in this decade.
Poet-DSM calls its joint venture in Emmetsburg "Project Liberty." MPR notes that a competitor expects to open a cellulosic plant in Kansas at about the same time.